If you drive through the SR 39 environmental entrance to The Ohio State University at Mansfield at the right time of day, you can see a small herd of deer grazing near the tree lines. Just how many deer roam the campus’s 640 acres and the impact on the surrounding woodlands is the goal of a study by Ohio State Extension Wildlife Program specialist Marne Titchenell. She and several volunteers erected fencing on a tenth of an acre behind Kee Hall to monitor the abundance of the deer and the pressure they place on vegetation. The deer exclosure allows an area of woodlands to grow naturally, while the area outside the fencing provides data about how much the deer are eating.
“It will probably take a season or two before we see a difference, but we put it in an area easily accessible for students and where we know deer are browsing so we should get some good data,” Titchenell said.
It’s one of several woodlands-based research projects Ohio State Mansfield and Extension would like to conduct on the land, akin to Stone Laboratory projects on open waterways conducted on Lake Erie. Mansfield campus is a unique combination of terrestrial, wetlands and aquatic areas, and one of the largest contiguous parcels left in the state. The forest also is the ideal location to offer an environmental studies program.
“We are eager to create an Environmental Studies program that takes advantage of our natural resources,” Dean and Director Stephen Gavazzi said. “In our next several rounds of hires, we will be looking for faculty who can lend expertise to that area of study.”
Kathy Smith, Extension program director – Forestry, worked with a capstone class of 35 environmental studies students last May to collect woodlands data. Another class will continue the study this May, with a goal to create a forest management plan.
Mansfield campus administrators hope the community will come to enjoy the increasing numbers of classes offered by the Woodlands Stewards program. This year’s classes… include a day-long Tree School designed to teach woodland owners and others how to plant and maintain trees. Extension, in conjunction with the Ohio Forestry Association, will offer two chainsaw safety classes in June. And Ohio State photography instructor Jim Doty, Jr. will lead a hands-on session on Capturing Nature’s Wonders, combining classroom and living laboratory experiences.